Friday, November 28, 2014

Fertilizer Mission to....Florida.

So recently I went down to Florida on a fertilizer mission to check on some important field investigations.  I was accompanied by AgroLiquid chemist Chris, and we were met by Field Agronomist Mike and Area Sales Manager Jim Dorman.  I have been reporting on the sugarcane field tests we have down in South Florida for over a year now.  The picture below shows how one area looked back on November 13, 2013.  It was planted around around six weeks earlier.  I remember that it was cool and cloudy that day.
And here is the same area as it looked on this November 18, almost exactly a year later.  The cane is over 10 feet tall now.  It's still green on the field edges, but go in a little and the leaves are turning brown and the cane is firm and ready for harvest.  It was also very cool and cloudy with rain when we were there again this year. Although the weather back in Michigan that day was very cold and snowing. So it was alright getting a little wet.
I found it's hard to capture the perspective with the camera.  But you can see the cane stalks standing up there.  The harvest season stretches from October to April with nearly 200,000 acres running through the mill in Clewiston. It is the large number of acres and the single mill that controls when a particular area is to be harvested.  But when it is time, the field will be burned to remove the dead leaves, with the stalks remaining to be collected and taken to the mill.  I have seen this burning operation from a distance.  At first I thought it would be a long and slow process like a forest fire. But it is really fast, since just the leaves burn.  It does create a lot of smoke and I wonder how that is perceived by the public.  But that's the only way to get the cane out of the field.  It will also be a challenge for the company field personnel to keep track of the yields from the different treatment blocks of our nearly 1000 acre experiment.  But we have been assured that it would happen.  Sounds good to me.
Here we see Chris satisfying his sweet tooth while Mike makes sure he doesn't go overboard on it. By the way, Chris is wired up for a meeting back in St. Johns.  Hope they didn't hear him slurping up the sugar.
We also had the opportunity to stop by Jim's blueberry farm to show us how he meters fertilizer into the irrigation drip lines in the field.  Fertilizer is sucked from that recessed ground tank into the main water lines using a venturi effect.  This is where the pressure of water passing through the big pipes creates suction to draw fertilizer from the tank. Mike is certainly intrigued. 
Jim hopes to be transplanting the blueberry plants soon, but heavy rain is holding that off for awhile. Here Chris watches water being pumped from the field into a drainage basin.  He also is being reminded that he shouldn't have had so much coffee for breakfast.
We also wanted to follow up on some orange projects with some growers.  Many people are not aware of the devastating disease affecting citrus trees on a world-wide basis.  It is called citrus greening or HLB disease.  It is a bacterial disease that clogs up the phloem of citrus trees.  The vector is an insect called the Asian Citrus Psyllid. It feeds on the leaves and infects the plants.  There is no known control, and they have really been trying.  Of course on way is to control the psyllid by spraying, but this hasn't really stopped it.  It is really making growing oranges tough for growers, and has affected price as this picture taken in a grocery store by Mike attests.  The sign says it has affected "50% of the citrus crop".  But I understand that it is nearly on the total crop in Florida.
Here is the symptom on the leaves.  They are mis-shapen and chlorotic.  
The affected fruit is lighter green (vs orange, or orange green), there is fruit drop, and it can lead to death and tree removal.  We saw some small re-planted trees that were already infected.  One strategy being tested is to load up the tree with nutrition, especially micronutrients, in order to keep the phloem open.  This isn't a cure but more of a coping mechanism.
We visited several juice orange groves that have received both drip and foliar applications of AgroLiquid nutrition.  Like this one below.  There are still the yellowed leaves, but it appears that production is still going to be good.  We saw few dropped oranges.  Of course, the grower will let us know after harvest, which should be soon.  We have some comparison treatments that will hopefully help guide us towards some relief for this terrible disease.
 As you can see here, the inside of the orange looks fine.  And it certainly passed my taste test.
So my visit to the Sunshine State was very worthwhile with the crop updates, some good food and as we just saw, oranges.  The only thing missing was the Sunshine.  But I'll be back.

Monday, November 24, 2014

So Where Do Walnuts Come From? Check this out....

So a couple weeks ago I made my way out to California.  I was met by a crew of AgroLiquid field managers: Regional Sales Manager Stuart, Field Agronomist JW and Sales Account Manager Armando.  And me from Research, so you can't get more diverse than that. Well it is winter and there isn't much growing, and the trip was mostly for meetings. But Sales Account Manager Armando knew of a nearby fertilizer comparison in walnuts.  So of course we wanted to see it.  It was two adjacent 40 acre blocks where everything was the same...except the potassium fertilizer.  That's one of the blocks below. 
Well these trees didn't look so great.  Look at these leaves.  That's potassium deficiency with the necrotic leaf margins.  Not sure, but maybe some sodium accumulation too from the irrigation lines. But I didn't have a soil or irrigation water analysis.  Well it turns out this side was fertilized with KTS, or potassium thio-sulfate.  Not sure of the rates or timing.  But it wasn't working.
Well the next block received 3 gal/A of Kalibrate through the irrigation lines and 3 foliar applications of 3 gal/A of Sure-K.  Now this was the first walnut grove I had ever been in, but I could see that this side looked a lot better.
Here is a leaflet from the KTS side next to one from the AgroLiquid side.  Pretty sharp differences. Of course it looks too good to be true, but all I know is what I was told.  And Armando is the man.  
The walnuts were recently picked, and we will see if the yield is reflective of the tree appearance. But the grower was greatly impressed and said Kalibrate and Sure-K will be on all of the trees in the future.  Wise choice.  Below the fertilizer guys reflect on what we have seen.  JW sees that the highly usable potassium from Kalibrate and Sure-K are superior nutrient sources.  Armando is happy for the grower and the future sale.  Stuart crosses Walnuts off the list of new crops benefited by AgroLiquid. Me?  All this talk of walnuts was making me hungry.  So what's for dinner? 
So more research and evaluations are forthcoming in California.  However I should add that the biggest factor affecting crops in CA these days is lack of water.  The drought persists, although it did rain some my last night there in Sacramento.  Hope for more. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Southwest Ag, Inc...Worth The Drive

So the first week of November I ventured out to see Southwest Ag, Inc owned by Dan Swanson, who is a long-time AgroLiquid dealer.  Where is Southwest Ag anyway?  Arizona?  New Mexico? Would you believe...North Dakota?  But it is in the Southwest corner of North Dakota in the town of Bowman.  They also have a facility in Mandan, which is next to Bismarck, the capitol of North Dakota.  I remember making my first trip out there from the Bismarck airport many years ago.  As we headed south from the interstate, it was pretty dry and barren.  I wondered what they grew there that needed fertilizer?  Well as you got closer, there is kind of a valley where there is lot's of good farmland suitable for crops.  They grow spring wheat, winter wheat, corn and some soybeans among others. And their business also extends South into South Dakota and West into Montana.  It's a nice place. On this trip, I actually made a couple of presentations at some grower meetings held out there. I thought they were good, and I'm rarely wrong on such things.  But I was greatly impressed by all of the fertilizer storage they have.  How many gallons can they hold?  Well, it's probably quite a few. So if you are farming in the area, stop by and fill up.  Or they will bring it to you.  Either way, it's worth the drive!

NCRS Video....You Watch Now!

So I know it's been awhile since the last blog post...but I've been busy.  Updates to follow.  But first I want to notify you that the third video installment is available for your viewing pleasure at the agroliquid website.  If you don't see it on the home page, click the Research tab where you can see all three episodes.
Recall that a drone was used by the Creative Services folks to record some cool views.  (Now you have to admit that my hand drawn rendering was pretty accurate.)  Well in other news, all of the harvesting is complete and reports are being written.  So soon I hope to make the announcement that the 2014 Research Report is also available for review.   

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NCRS Video...On the set.

So a couple times this summer at the NCRS we made a video about progress through the season. You can see the first two on the agroliquid web site at the bottom of the home page.  They are NCRS Progress Series Episodes 1 & 2.  Well now we are in field crop harvest, and that would indicate that it was time for Episode 3.  So we did just that last Thursday. Our regular crew from Creative Services was on the job once again.  So it will be good.  And of course it was cold and cloudy, this being fall and all.
I gave the welcome and related progress since Episode 2, which included the Research Field Days. There will be footage of that in Episode 3, so if you were there, check it out soon for your cameo.
One cool new feature that Creative Services has now is a video drone.  I've seen footage of what they have done with the drone previously at at the Field Days and was anxious to see it here during harvest.  Here is pilot Mike getting ready for liftoff.  That's a cell phone on the controls that serves as a camera monitor showing what the drone "sees".
Up, up and away.
I looked over Mike's shoulder to see the aerial shots of the combine and scaled grain cart working their way through the plots.  Mike is a good pilot and Episode 3 will be quite a visual extravaganza. 
I was so focused on the video images that I forgot to take a picture of the cell phone monitor.  So here is an artist's reconstruction of what I was seeing.  This artist is quite good.  It really looked like that. 
Next we went inside the farm office to show Stephanie on the job taking test weight and grain moisture measurements of the corn samples from each plot.  She did a good job on camera, having done this a time or two in the past.  Or maybe it was thousands.  Many thousands.
Couldn't do an NCRS video without a fruit and vegetable segment.  In something new, Brian gave an overview on strawberry fertility in answer to a video question from a grower.  He also talked about the massive amounts of food donated to the Mid-Michigan Food Bank over the years.  It's up to around 200,000 pounds in recent years.
So that was fun.  Look for the premier of Episode 3 coming soon to a website near you.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Vowel Movement (Again)

(Note: Too wet to carve pumpkins this year, so enjoy this re-run from 2012.)

So Happy Halloween to all of you out in Blogland.  Last year I took a stab at LIQUID pumpkin carving with pretty good results.  The picture above is from exactly one year ago.  So how could I top that?  I know...instead of one pumpkin (which anyone could do), why not six!  After hours of careful carving and still having all my fingers and thumbs in place, I was finished.  Now to arrange them on the porch.  Hmmm, not as easy as I thought.
A little re-arranging....D'oh....still wrong.  I need a pumpkin spell-check.
Finally. That looks right. 
I suppose now all of the Trick-or-Treaters will be expecting a bag full of Pro-Germinator.  I better stock up.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

More Harvesting

Plot harvest at the NCRS has been a challenge this year.  Wet weather has kept the harvest crews out of the field for extended times.  But the field crop crew has been putting in long days through the weekend.  I went out last Thursday to see what was going on.  Over on Farm 5,  Phil unloads soybeans from a plot into the scaled grain cart.  
Stephanie watches the weight numbers roll up.
 Then she punches the weight into the mounted iPad.  It is linked to the computer in the NCRS office and records the number in the program, so that when the harvest for the test is complete, the data is already summarized.  That is something new this year that will make data summary much easier. Good thing since there are over 1800 individual field crop plots set for harvest in 2014.  (By the way, that's MSU intern Kalvin driving the tractor.  Although I guess his internship is over, so now he is just a regular NCRS researcher.  We are very fortunate that Kalvin was willing to continue working this fall around his busy MSU class schedule.)
Over on the Specialty Crop Crew, Jake and Brian have borrowed a grape press from Kalvin, and go to work making juice from the Concord Grape plot harvest.  I tried it.  It's good!
 Over on Farm 7 there was a sugarbeet experiment being harvested.  Recall that we have six-row plots, but harvest the middle four rows.  Here is what they look like after the topper has removed the...tops.  Why else would it be called a topper?
Now the beet lifter lifts the beets out of the ground.  Why else would it be called a lifter?  The beets are dumped into the tank and there is a scale and monitor that reads the weight for that plot.  Still remarkable compared to the old ways and days when I actually worked there.  Yes it's an old lifter, but it works just fine for these plots.  That's Jeff at the helm of the tractor there.  And Ron on the dump trailer tractor in the back.
Determining the plot weight is just the first step with sugarbeet harvest.  Beets need to be graded for per cent sucrose plus several other quality measurements.  This is how the payment to growers is determined, and these can be affected by fertilizer inputs.  So plot samples need to be collected.  Here Tim collects some beets from the back door installed on the lifter tank.  These will be taken to the Michigan Sugar Company lab for evaluation.  The beets are then unloaded into the trailer there and then dumped in a row along the road for collection to be taken to a sugarbeet piling ground for transport to the sugar company plant.  Tim also punches the weights into the iPad here too.
After all of that, the lifter moves on to the next plot.
Round and round they go.  That's the way all of the field plots are harvested here at the NCRS.  You are usually too busy to get dizzy though.